It seems that many remote workers are affected by loneliness…
This week (9th – 15th May 2022) is Mental Health Awareness Week; an annual event when there is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health. Each year the Mental Health Foundation set a focused theme within Mental Health.
This year, most aptly after periods of enforced isolation and separation for many of us, they have chosen loneliness.
Loneliness, perhaps unsurprisingly right now, is affecting many people within the UK. This can have a significant impact on physical and mental health. Whilst always an issue to some extent, this has been increasing even more since the coronavirus pandemic. Our connection to other people and the community plays an important part in protecting our mental health, it is vital to find better ways of tackling loneliness. This includes within the ways we work.
The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, that’s a third of our lives! Therefore, paying attention to workplace mental health has never been more important. Research shows that there is a culture of fear and silence around talking about mental health. But having these conversations about mental health doesn’t have to be difficult.
How can remote working increase the risks of employee loneliness?
A potential risk of employee loneliness could be through remote working. You may have implemented remote working into your organisation since the pandemic. We’re not denying there are a lot of benefits to working remotely and with the cost of living rising, remote working can help employees save money on travel.
With its benefits, remote working also has its downfalls. Some organisations have decided, since the pandemic, to implement permanent remote working. This means that some employees at these organisations have been working from home for nearly three years! Although, some employees don’t mind working from home permanently, it is important to consider the employees who may not like permanent remote working.
If not managed correctly, permanent remote working could see an increased risk of employee loneliness. We’ve noticed a big increase in employees where the working from home novelty has totally worn off and they are now asking to come back into the workplace. For the professional collaboration as well as and maybe as importantly as the social aspect of being around other humans! So, to reduce this is important to have a clear structure to how you can manage your employees who are remote work.
Could hybrid-working reduce employee loneliness caused by permanent remote working?
A way you can overcome loneliness caused by permanent remote working, could be to implement hybrid-working. Hybrid-working gives employees an opportunity to work partly from home, and partly in the office. Although, it might not be possible for all employees to hybrid-work. Therefore, you should make sure that sufficient support is put in place for employees who can’t hybrid-work.
We know some companies have given up their office premises completely so what if you have no-where to go? Hot desk office spaces have seen an increase in bookings where companies are paying for their employees to work away from home a day or two a week so that they can be with other people. There are also still many pubs and cafes that allow remote workers to book a table a day to work from. Of course there are issues of confidentiality to consider in these arrangements but the benefits are enormous.
How can you support potential employee loneliness at your organisation?
You might not know, but there is a lot of stigmas around employees being able to openly talk about the issues faced by their mental health to employers. Recognising how to manage the emotional well-being of your employees can reduce the risks of loneliness.
Keeping it simple is key. Your role as an employer/line manager isn’t to spot cases or diagnose. You can reduce the stigmas around employees not wanting to speak up about their mental health by talking about it in a respectful, non-judgemental, clear, and understanding way. Doing so can help set the right tone within your organisation. Reminding your employees that you are there to support them and not just manage them. This can be the difference between an employee feeling taken care of or feeling isolated and unable to speak up.
Being aware of a change in an employee’s engagement at work could suggest they are becoming withdrawn. Without being too pushy, it’s important that you try to recognise the early signs of employee loneliness and suggest the right form of support for them. Although, you need to consider that not everyone may want to speak up.
Communication is powerful. It doesn’t have to be done face-to-face. You can still make employees engaged and feel valued through the use technology. Simply making time to contact your employees and touching base with them, can have a positive impact. This can be done using Teams, Zoom or other video-calling software’s. Using these tools, you could create virtual lunch breaks for those working alone from home.
If you’re worried about a member of your staff and you really don’t feel confident enough to approach them about it or know where to go next then let us know and we can help provide you with information and contact details of organisations that will be able to help you.